It is easy to understand why Lily James was nervous about starring in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
It wasn’t just that the 2008 original was a smash-hit success, taking in over $615 million to become one of the highest grossing musicals of all time, but James also had the unenviable task of playing a young version of Meryl Streep, arguably the greatest actress of all time.
James recently admitted to me that although she was hesitant for the above reasons, ultimately, her past connections to both the West End musical and the first film meant that the offer was just too good to turn. Much to the skepticism of her agent.
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“My agent originally sent me the script for the ‘Mamma Mia’ sequel, and was almost like, ‘Hey, how do you feel about this?’ and I think they weren’t really sold on the idea.”
“But I was like, ‘This sounds amazing. You guys don’t know me at all if you think I don’t want to do this.’ Because musicals and ‘Mamma Mia’ have been something that have been part of my life since I was young and a teenager. So I was so excited at the thought of going back to that and seeing what that would mean.”
James' excitement only increased once she got on-set. In fact, when I asked the all singing and dancing actress what her favorite number to sing during production was, at first she found it difficult to pick one out.
“Oh god, all of it,” was James’ response, before she quickly settled on, “Mamma Mia. I think because you can see it in a very different setting to the first film.”
“This time it is Donna and the Dynamos, they’re rocking out, they’re this girl band all together, for me to sing that alongside Jess and Alexa, who are just so extremely talented, and we were really close, and there really was a feeling of girl power. I just felt like I was in a girl band, and it was really exhilarating and powerful and I just loved it.”
Surprisingly, “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” could be called “The Godfather 2” of musicals. Well, at least when it comes to its plot, as it dovetails as both a prequel and a sequel.
We see James’ Donna, just out of university and exploring Europe, which is where she becomes romantically entangled with Sam, Bill and then Harry, alongside the story of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and the rest of the original troop trying hard to run Donna’s villa.
In the midst of these trials and tribulations we, of course, get to see the cast exuberantly singing and dancing along to plenty of ABBA hits. So exuberantly that it is impossible not to get caught up in the sheer joy of it all.
The success of the original “Mamma Mia,” “La La Land” and, most recently, “The Greatest Showman” prove that audiences are keen to join in with such fun, and James has devised her own theory behind the resurgence of the genre.
“I think that right now more than ever people just want to go to the cinema, and there is an element of escapism of leaving yourself and trying to escape the realities of the moment. Everyone needs a little bit of cheering up. Thing there is a spirit and defiance in musicals.”
“Just look at ‘The Greatest Showman,’ it revels in the unusual and imperfect, and it made that something glorious. And I think that’s a reaction to the world that we are in.”
“That’s the same with ‘Mamma Mia.’ Also ‘Mamma Mia’ celebrates and revels in women and motherhood and that bond between mother and daughter and family being unconventional and you doing it anyway you want.”
“The core message of the film, for me, I mean when I was on the blue carpet the other night I was surrounded by some of the most brilliant beautiful women, and it felt inspiring to be a part of that. There’s just a sisterhood to this project.”
“Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” is released in cinemas on July 20.